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A colorful and robust soup! Perfect ‘comfort food’ on a cold winter’s day. Roasting the tomatoes first gives this soup a deep, sweet flavor. Use ripe but firm tomatoes so that they don’t get soft too quickly. For a lower-fat version, use milk or more stock instead of cream. I didn’t make the croutons this time around but did include the recipe as they are delicious. Today I served the soup with a dollop of arugula pesto and some warm naan bread.

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Parsley Croutons

 For the Soup:

3 lbs tomatoes

extra virgin olive oil

8 small shallots

2 to 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

5 sprigs fresh parsley

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small carrot, chopped

1 fennel bulb, chopped

5 sprigs fresh tarragon

1 cup heavy cream

For the Parsley Croutons:

12 thin slices baguette

extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, cut in half

½ cup shredded Teleme or Muenster cheese

¼ cup fresh parsley

Soup: Heat oven to 4oo degrees (F). Cut the tomatoes in half cross-wise and squeeze gently to remove the seeds, scraping them out with your fingers if necessary. Coat the tomatoes with olive oil and place them, cut side own, on a non-stick (or parchment-lined or foil-lined) baking dish. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until the tomatoes are very soft and their skins are dark. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Melt butter in a medium sized saucepan and sauté the chopped shallots and fennel until they are soft, about 12 minutes. Add 2 cups of stock and the tarragon and parsley. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the herb sprigs and add the roasted tomatoes. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Add the cream and return the soup to a simmer. If the soup is still very thick, thin it with more stock. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm until ready to serve.

Croutons: Heat oven to 400 degrees (F). Brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil and put them on a baking sheet. Rub the top of each slice with garlic and sprinkle on the cheese and parsley. Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

To serve, ladle the soup into warm bowls and float two or three parsley croutons on top of each bowl. Enjoy!